She floats in Light & Beauty
The siren call of Italy’s Amalfi Coast lures even the most jaded travelers satiated by a diet of exotic locales.
By CHEW SEOK YAM
When I was a teenager attending college in Lugano, Switzerland, Italy was a mere 45 minutes away by train. Lugano itself was in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland and was, to my callow young mind, a sanitised (and preferable) version of Italy.
Having been accustomed to traveling through the predominantly German-speaking parts of Europe, I had developed a distinct preference for Teutonic efficiency and order. During my few incursions into Italy, I could not savour the disorderly Italian traffic, the smelly canals of Venice and the chaos of Milan. And so it was that for more than 20 years after I finished my education in Switzerland, I never returned to Italy.
But as the years went by, I found I was starting to hanker for all the exotic places that I had rebuffed in my youth. I had taken up painting, and suddenly dusty streets and old buildings in spectacular Mediterranean sunlight was the stuff of an artist’s dreams. Italy beckoned irresistably.
So about a year or so ago when some old university friends and I were searching for an exotic destination to rival our previous holidays in India and South Africa, we chose Italy’s Amalfi Coast. We flew into Geneva to meet a Swiss friend before taking the dubious-sounding FlyBaboo (which turned out to be a small, but perfectly respectable, privately run Swiss budget airline) into Naples.
Having recently experienced the mega-luxury of the South African and Indian resorts, we felt that the Amalfi Coast simply did not have the space or the competitive wage structures of India and South Africa to provide the equivalent luxury and service to which we had become accustomed. We thus settled on a rented villa with a sea-view. At least there would be more space, and it came with our own private housekeeper and cook.
Villa with a view
At Naples airport, we rented two cars to drive up to our villa - the Villa Ulliveto - which was near Sorrento, about an hour’s drive from Naples. The villa’s agent, Signor Gianluca Ziveri from Exclusive in Italy, had given us the coordinates of our meeting point. It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I had contemplated driving on the Italian highway, but to my surprise, it was easy. Obviously, the chaotic traffic of my youthful memory had been vastly exaggerated. The car rental company’s recommendation to us to rent a small car had been a good one. The coastal road was extremely narrow, and it would have been near impossible to manouevre any vehicle that was marginally larger.
We arrived at the meeting point to find Signor Ziveri waiting for us. From there, it was a short drive to the villa. The exterior was not impressive, but the interior was warm and inviting: charmingly rustic, yet comfortably furnished with overstuffed sofas and a fireplace in the sitting area. The garden was a riot of exotic palms and colourful flowers with sunbeds arranged neatly on the lawns. There were four large bedrooms on three levels, a dining room, a sitting room, and a well equipped kitchen. The villa is perched on a cliff overlooking the Gulf of Sorrento. It came equipped with a telephone, internet connectivity and a menu, from which we could order lunch or dinner at additional charge, should we decide to dine in. All in all, it was a very satisfactory first impression. I was starting to enjoy Italy.
The Amalfi Coast is known for its spectacular weather and light. Unfortunately, due to conflicting schedules, my friends and I could only commence our trip on the Easter weekend, when wet weather was usually anticipated. The weather did not disappoint: our arrival also heralded a week of mainly drizzly weather and grey skies. Nevertheless, even with the tumultuous grey sky as its backdrop, it is not difficult to see why this region of Italy attracts multitudes of visitors each year.
On the morning of our arrival in Sorrento, we woke up to the aroma of bread rolls, hot coffee and omelettes wafting from the kitchen. We were met by Rosie, our housekeeper, a jovial lady who spoke excellent English and was an even better cook. After a satisfying breakfast, we set out for our first tour of Sorrento. We drove to the town centre and parked our car. A walk to the town centre led us past Vallone dei Mulini, the Valley of the Flour Mills. The name of the Valley originally derived from a mill, whose ruins are still visible.
More - Read the eMagazine
You've been reading an edited version of an article from the India Se magazine. To read the latest edition of the complete magazine - click here. (The eMagazine opens in a new window and runs on Flash 8)
or Subscribe to the Print Edition of India Se Magazine
You can subscribe to the Print Edition of the magazine for just S$48 for the whole year (save 20% off the retail price if you order online)..